Description of Historic Place
The Murney Martello Tower, situated on a grassy berm on an open parkland site, is a massive, circular stone structure with a hipped corrugated metal roof set over a polygonal clapboard-sheathed gun platform. Inclining slightly inwards from base to parapet, the walls are pierced by three round-arched openings fitted with iron shutters and one iron doorway. The designation is confined to the footprint of the building.
The Murney Martello Tower is a Classified Federal Heritage Building because of its historical associations, and its architectural and environmental value.
The Murney Martello Tower is a very good illustration of the pre-confederation uncertainties of maintaining sovereignty while sharing a border with the United States during a period of rapid and zealous expansion by that country. It represents the pinnacle of Martello design as the advent of rifled artillery halted any further advance or refinement in the type. It is one of ten surviving Martello towers built in Canada by the British between 1796 and 1847 and one of four built in an arc on the Kingston waterfront in the final phase of the city’s fortification.
The Murney Martello Tower’s form is based on state-of-the-art Martello design and is an excellent example of a strictly functional aesthetic that is refined by subtle features. These features characterize the tower and include: the sloping outer edge of the parapet, the round arches, the caponiers, the varied thickness of wall, and the annular vault within. Its value also resides in its profile and massing, its masonry construction and high quality craftsmanship. Designed by Sir Richard Bonnycastle who was also responsible for four other towers, the Murney Tower is acknowledged to be the most sophisticated in its design.
The Murney Martello Tower, occupying a prominent position along the Kingston’s waterfront in Macdonald Park is compatible with the historic military and institutional character of the city. Because of its mass and its position, it tends to dominate the area. The area around the tower is a well-used public park, and the building itself houses a museum that attracts many visitors throughout the year. It is a prominent feature on a recreational path along the shore and regular ferry traffic to Wolfe Island and intense recreational boating and board sailing in the area ensure that the tower is also viewed from offshore. The Murney Martello Tower is set within the city and, easily accessible, is an important Kingston landmark.
Sources: Fern Graham, Murney Martello Tower, Macdonald Park, Kingston, Ontario, Federal Heritage Building Report 91-086; Murney Martello Tower, Macdonald Park, Kingston, Ontario, Heritage Character Statement, 91-086.
The character-defining elements of the Murney Martello Tower should be respected.
Its state-of-the-art Martello design and excellent functional aesthetic and high quality craftsmanship as manifested in:
- its profile and massing consisting of the circular tower sitting on a parapet, with four caponiers projecting into the ditch created by the encircling grassed berm;
- its polygonal clapboard-sheathed gun platform surmounted by a hipped corrugated metal wood truss roof;
- the limestone walls which increase in thickness toward the waterfront side ending in a parapet that slopes downward to the waterfront side;
- its smooth masonry surfaces, iron doorway and three round arched ‘carronade porte’ openings fitted with iron shutters;
- its interior double vaulted circular chamber supported by a central stone pier and containing timber floor and restored brick and limestone walls and ceilings and a hearth;
- its cellar with brick and limestone storerooms and the four projecting caponiers that are accessed by vaulted passageways;
- the circular stone floor surrounded by a stepped-up banquette and the parapet.
The manner in which the Murney Martello Tower is compatible with the historic military and institutional character of the city in its waterfront park setting.